‘I just want to go to sleep and not wake up. I’ve had a good life, I’ve seen you and the boys now and I know you love me. ‘
There are often ‘grey’ areas when it comes to euthanasia. Maybe someone is confused, has dementia, there is a bit of quality to their life, even if we as outsiders can’t see it.
There is no ‘grey’ in my Dad’s case. He has no hope, no present, no future and no life.
He is 78. He got a disease (ANCA vasculitis) which affected his white blood cells which in turn has given him kidney disease. He has 10% kidney function now. Not quite low enough for dialysis but even if it were, because of the original disease, dialysis won’t make his life better.
The high dose steroids he took for the ANCA have given him cataracts, made him deaf and crumbled his bones. The ‘cure’ was worse than the disease.
He might have had a good few years left, but the ANCA seems to have progressed and both that and the steroids have shut his body down.
He sleeps all day. He has no energy to even lift his head up off the pillow. He has stopped eating, apart from 2 high protein drinks a day. He has lasted this long because he was very fat when he first got ill. He is now a shadow …. stick thin legs, skin hanging off him … but his body is still somehow keeping him alive.
He loved to read, to watch operas on his computer, do origami. He was a very intelligent man who had a joke for every occasion. That man has disappeared slowly, like the fat on his belly.
He is now a bit confused, fixated on wanting my Mum to make his favourite chicken soup – even though he can’t eat and has no appetite.
There’s another story – my Mum and their relationship. They should have split up years ago. My Mum married him at 19 to get away from her father (who had some sort of mental illness – probably a personality disorder). She never really loved him but they rubbed along ok for many years because he let Mum’s innate nastiness wash over him (some mental illnesses are partially genetic remember!).
Their ‘thing’ was going on exotic overseas holidays. Mum didn’t want to leave him because she wouldn’t have enough money or a partner to travel with. Dad put up with her because he loved her and didn’t mind being her doormat. In recent years though, my Mum’s behaviour towards him has got worse and she has made it clear how much she now hates him.
Then Dad got sick, very sick. He is at home (not quite ill enough to be in hospital, not quite close enough to death to be in a hospice) and the public health system tries to keep people at home as long as possible.
Mum has become his ‘carer’. I use inverted commas for a reason. She doesn’t CARE at all. She wants him dead. She doesn’t want to have to wipe his bum after he has again pooed in his ‘nappy’ or clean up the carpet where he spilled his overnight urine bottle by accident. She treats him abysmally and is not coping with their situation at all.
I am on the other side of the world. I wish I could help, I would take my Dad in if I could – but the choice I made 26 years ago to emigrate has left me unable to do much more than offer moral support to my Dad and brother. My brother lives 4 hours away from my parents and has his own troubles. He helps as he can, but in some ways he might as well be on the other side of the world too.
I am so pleased that I decided to take his two Grandson’s (my boys) over to see him in January when he was still in a reasonably good state and was able to vicariously enjoy their time in London. (See my earlier post – My Father is Dying)
Finally Mum and Dad have both agreed to move Dad to a home – it will use up most of their savings but Dad might finally get the proper care he needs.
But that actually changes nothing. He will still be asleep most of the day, but on a proper hospital bed that can be propped up if he wants it. He will still be too blind to see the television or his computer but it will at least be in his room if he wants to, too deaf to listen to audio books. What is the point of it all?
He wants to be dead. There is nothing worth living for anymore. There is nothing he can do and no quality to his life at all. He will be moved to a home where strangers will do the most personal things for him and he will sleep the rest of the day.
I am also reminded of my Grandma – who 18 years ago starved herself to death in hospital. She went in for a broken hip at 86 years old and they found she had bowel cancer. She had a colostomy (a bag for poo attached to your stomach) and she had always said she would never have one of them. So she must have decided she had had enough of life and from that point on refused to eat or drink. It took three long months for her body to finally give up . At the end she wasn’t awake much and when she was she wasn’t aware what was going on around her.
I was very luckily back home during this period and frequently visited her in hospital. On one of the last visits I wanted to share some special news with her.
‘Grandma. I have something really special to tell you. I’m pregnant. I am having your first great grandchild. I am so excited and happy. Please start eating again so that you can be around for when this baby is born. There is something worth living for now. Grandma, please squeeze my hand if you heard me.’
My hand wasn’t squeezed but my heart was, I was so sad that Grandma would never know.
My Dad wants to die but he can’t do anything about it. My Grandma wanted to die and took it in her own hands but it was very difficult for her and even more difficult for those of us left behind – watching her slowly dying in front of our eyes in a run down hospital in the East End of London.
Why can’t the Government’s of this world legislate to allow dying people or their families have dignity and choice in the last few moments of their life.
Why do we have to let the dying and their families suffer while they wait.
Surely if a person’s quality of life has completely gone and they express a lucid and clear wish to die, we should be able to help them in the most loving and kind way.
There may be grey – which is one of the reasons Governments hesitate, there may be religious reasons why some people wouldn’t make that choice for themselves or their loved ones. But when there is no grey and the person isn’t religious – it is wrong to make them carry on.
This surely is a clear case for euthanasia.